About This Report
2.1 This report sets out the findings from mixed methodology research exploring the views of National Entitlement Card (NEC) holders who are users of the Scotland-Wide Free Bus Travel for Older and Disabled People Scheme. Transport Scotland commissioned Research Resource, working in partnership with ODS Consulting to undertake the research. The research findings will help provide valuable insight into the use and value of the National Entitlement Card.
2.2 This report details the key findings from year 2 of a two year programme of research with NEC card holders. The year 2 research comprised a large scale telephone survey of 3,088 card holders and qualitative research with users of the scheme across Scotland through a combination of focus group discussions and in-depth telephone interviews.
2.3 The Scotland-Wide Free Bus Travel Scheme for Older and Disabled People was introduced in April 2006. The scheme operates nationally, permitting free bus travel on any registered bus service. The scheme is open to anyone who lives in Scotland and who is either 60 years old or more, or who meets certain disability criteria and have applied for, and received a National Entitlement Card (NEC).
2.4 The disability criteria include:
- Disability Living Allowance under the higher rate of mobility or higher/middle rate of care;
- Attendance Allowance;
- living in a care or residential home or hospital;
- being a Blue Badge holder;
- being profoundly or severely deaf;
- having a visual impairment;
- being told not to drive based on medical grounds;
- mental illness, learning difficulty or personality disorder that is recognised under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and has lasted for more than a year;
- having a terminal illness;
- having a progressive degenerative condition. Conditions such as Parkinson's Disease that impede your mobility entitle you to free bus travel;
- the loss of one or more limbs; or
- an injured veteran with mobility problems.
2.5 The take up levels of the scheme are high. Just over 1.2 million older and disabled people in Scotland have a National Entitlement Card for free bus travel. Data from Transport Scotland from 2011 identified that approximately 85% of all the concessionary cards were for the over 60s with the remaining 15% for disabled and companion cards. In 2012, 88% of over 60s had a pass (n=1,074,616). The national scheme replaced a variety of local schemes which had been in operation since the 1960s.
2.6 The Scottish Government has been exploring how the scheme can be improved and developed since 2009. A review of the scheme in 2009 undertook a postal survey and qualitative research with its users. This revealed that the scheme was highly valued, particularly for local travel and reduced a sense of isolation in older people. It has also explored issues around setting the reimbursement rate for transport operators involved in the scheme.
2.7 There is, however, very little evidence about how older and disabled people use their National Entitlement Card to access concessionary travel. Transport Scotland commissioned Research Resource and ODS Consulting to undertake research to explore how people in Scotland use their National Entitlement Card and to assess their experiences of concessionary travel.
Research Aims and Objectives
2.8 This is the second year of this research, which is to explore the experiences of card holders in using their cards and the value the cards bring to them.
2.9 The specific objectives were to provide evidence in relation to:
- the application process;
- experience of using the card to access the National Concessionary travel scheme and general experience of eligible cardholders who use their entitlement to free travel;
- transport behaviours and patterns;
- the perceived benefits and impact of the scheme; and
- overall satisfaction with the concessionary travel scheme.
2.10 The research was carried out over a period of two years in order to gain a detailed and in depth understanding of the use and value of the scheme. Whilst some topics covered within the research were similar between year 1 and year 2, other themes were introduced in order to explore the different issues or themes of interest. In particular, additional questions were added to explore the impact of the NEC on card holders' physical health and mental wellbeing and also a series of questions in order to identify whether having the NEC encourages either additional journeys and/ or a modal shift.
2.11 A separate report is available detailing the Year 1 results however where survey results are comparable between the two years, the year on year research results are presented in this report.